In a business where there are so many competitors, so many different routes, so many different seat options, baggage options, credit card options, membership options, and just so many options in general, it’s extremely important to make sure that today’s consumer not only understands but also connects positively with your brand.

The airline industry is one that has become more and more present in people’s lives. The mixture between increasingly affordable flight rates and Millennials’ desire to travel and explore the world has helped the airline industry grow tremendously. In fact, The International Air Transportation Association expects a 31% rise in passenger demand by 2017. That means that they expect 930 million more passengers in comparison to 2012.

Although this colossal growth rate is great news for airlines, it is also something that they need to keep an eye on because it means one very important thing: an increase in competition. With the amount of new passengers choosing to fly, airline brands need to ensure that the public knows who they are. In a market where most consumers hear the same thing from every airline – extra legroom, friendly service, comfortable flights, in-flight advertisements – airlines need to bring in a positive experience instead of just telling consumers that they’re the best.

Experiential marketing helps airlines connect with consumers on a more personal basis. It gives the airline the exposure necessary to convince consumers that the in-flight experience will be just as great as the one they have at the footprint (or in some cases, their last flight). Airlines are quickly catching on to this and have begun finding ways to branch out and focus on new ways to create a positive consumer experience.

Airlines are now running their experiential campaign in non-aviation areas that are a part of many consumers’ everyday lives. Some airlines are focusing on opening cafes in large metropolitan areas, while others are nitpicking certain food festivals to set up shop and create a branded lounge for consumers to take a break in. Other airlines went as far as creating food trucks that roamed the streets of New York City and handed out free food.

Some airlines prefer the aviation setting. Instead of throwing themselves out into real life, they have opted to include in-flight experience building campaigns. One airline company surprised its passengers with a themed flight that added a fun in-flight experience. Other airline companies have brought in magicians, fashion shows, and concert series to the in-flight experience.

There are airlines that are taking a more traditional approach to these experiential campaigns. Some airlines have decided to go with giveaways – with meaning. More than a few airline companies have surprised their passengers with Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day gifts on the luggage claim belt. Another airline has chosen to pick lucky consumers to get free tickets at certain restaurants, creating an amazing dining experience.

Even another way that airlines are implementing experiential marketing campaigns is by taking a more involved, yet traditional, approach to creating consumer experiences. Airlines are starting onboard flash mobs that take consumers by surprise. These flash mobs are no doubt a pleasant surprise to the consumers onboard, but the true value of these come in when their videos go viral on YouTube, bringing in great exposure.

One airline decided to take it a step further than inflight experiences and the cliché dining and lounging experience and decided to place a large interactive window display in the middle of New York. There’s a catch: the window display made personalized comments about the people who decided to interact with it. How? There was a real-life flight attendant inside of the display that consumers believed to be simply a computer-generated image. The flight attendant even came outside and gave away 100 vouchers to the people with whom she interacted the most.

Experiential marketing is getting even more individualized in this field. Airlines want to make their passengers feel unique and appreciated, so instead of just thanking them and giving them reward points, miles or other giveaways, one airline created a completely personalized flight magazine. Using Facebook to gain access to their passenger’s public information, they created unique magazines for every passenger based on their likes and placed them in their seat pockets before they boarded. It was no surprise when every single passenger left with his or her magazine, feeling unique and cherished.

This individual targeting is made possible by technology and enhances consumer experiences. This then allows airlines to tailor each individual’s experience to their own interests, generating not only more buzz for their accomplishment of actually caring, but building strong consumer relationships that will undoubtedly create consumer loyalty.

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